Pam Ann was born out of an Absolut bottle of vodka. Wait, that isn’t entirely accurate: a bottle of Absolut, a dress-up themed birthday party and a Pan American air hostess outfit.
The birthday party belonged to that of comedian Caroline Reid, the alter ego of Pam Ann, the lady wearing the air hostess costume and vigorously drinking the vodka. What ensued was not only a raucous night -” and a blurry head-hurting morning after -” but the organic and synchronistic process which spews forth some memorable characters.
And now Pam Ann is larger than life. She’s a national treasure, one we lent to British Airways for the iconic viral campaign that shot her to superstardom.
She frequently performs cabaret routines, particularly in gay venues such as 2 Brewers in South London, playing alongside some of the UK’s most critically respected drag performers. These routines rely heavily on audience participation and her very sharp tongue.
In recent years her success has led to several UK tours at regional theatres and arts centres, where the more formal surroundings have done little to dampen the spirit of the performances. These tours have also allowed her to develop some of her fledgling trolley dolly characters into a range of farcical international air hostesses with a wide range of character flaws and foibles, similar to the BBC comedy Mind Your Language 30 years ago.
Pam Ann loves re-editing old footage of airline disasters, and retro air travel glamour with footage of herself is a useful tool, allowing dozens of costume changes.
All the routines use risky themes such as cocaine smuggling, terrorism and airline staff incompetence. If there are any political or social messages in the material, they remain well-hidden.
In addition, she’s gone on to give some good in-flight entertainment to David Furnish, helped Cher exit the aircraft with her Farewell tour plus found time to star in a new TV show for The Comedy Channel, The Pam Ann Show, which premiered last month. This light-hearted romp is super gay-friendly with people like Matthew Mitcham flying by to talk shop, duty-free.
Oh, darling, what would I do without my gays? squealed Reid.
What would I do? I wouldn’t be looking fabulous when I walked out, sequins and big hair. They’ve been very supportive.
People say they went to RADA or NIDA, you know those drama schools. Well, I went to the -˜drag-atic’ school of drama, the -˜tran-atic’ school of dramatic arts.
The trannies and the drag queens taught me everything I needed to know. Probably because when I was about 16 I started going to all the gay clubs, so from then on I never looked back. I haven’t been to a straight club since!
In a world of formulaic television, Reid’s new show is a blip on the radar, harking back to the days when ribald humour like Hey Hey It’s Saturday ruled the airwaves. In fact, the show’s voiceover of Captain Rimming is done by Hey Hey’s John Blackman.
And as if the show wasn’t already -˜Virgin’ on the ridiculous, the whole thing is basically a variety chat show set on 1960s aircraft.
It’s filthy, Reid said. I wanted it spontaneous, so every week we go to a different destination with four costume changes in a half-hour show-¦ I wanted to bring back that whole -˜What is going to happen next on the telly?’, -˜My God, she didn’t say that!’ kind of thing. That was the goal. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m very proud of it.
It has that Sonny and Cher element, that whole stylistic attention to detail. We have some great guests. Leo Sayer is on it. He is amazing.
The set is set up into a galley area where we interview a guest and then we have an upper deck lounge which has a big round bed, very Hugh Hefner 1970s -¦ We interview someone on the bed and there’s a piano up there.
We’ve been inspired by the Dame Edna show and the days in the ’80s when she had the lift coming up. Well, we’ve got PamCam with people begging for upgrades. There’s Dannii Minogue, Bob Downe, Tina Arena -” they’re all trying to get on board!
So if she plays such a tenacious trolley dolly, what kind of a passenger is she when she flies? Her response was simple. A pissed one, she laughed.